The recent collaboration between Lana Soufeh and Andrea Biggio, an experimental redesign of the EP Al Jaride by the Bandaly Family, brings different cultures together and, in doing so, overcomes language barriers. With Lana being based in Amman, Jordan, and Andrea living in Rome, Italy, the duo started this project as an initiative to fuse their two diverse cultures into one visual outcome, representing equity and diversity. “We wanted to unite our backgrounds and have a chance to showcase how two different backgrounds, mentalities and places can meet each other through design”, the duo states. Since the Bandaly Family’s signature music is known for combining elements of western music with oriental rhythms, the EP fit perfectly into their concept.
Lana and Andrea first met on Instagram, when he approached Lana for advice on Arabic typography and design. “He was intrigued by my culture and wanted to have more insight”, she remembers. In the end, working together on this collaboration was a learning process for both of them. “Andrea had no previous knowledge in working with or even reading Arabic. It was interesting to see his perspective on the aesthetics of the language”, she tells us, “On the other hand he was guiding me through the Latin lettering as well. Overall it was a balanced working environment which allowed us to learn a lot from each other while respecting each other’s cultures.”
While both designers worked together on the Arabic calligraphy, the duo split up the other tasks based on their different interests and backgrounds with Andrea focusing on the Latin lettering and Lana taking over the layout and overall design. “When it came to the ideation and general creative process, there was no division. We pitched our ideas equally”, Lana reflects, “It was more or less a give and take.” Based on the fact that they both live in different countries – and have never collaborated before – the duo was faced with quite a challenge to manage the project despite the distance. “The biggest challenge was working remotely with someone I never met but highly respect as a designer! We only had the online platform as a source of communication and that in itself was difficult but we managed to make the best out of it.”
In the past, Lana has worked on various projects and collaborations, constantly pushing her personal style forward. Through it all however, typography remained at the core of her focus. Collaboration has always been a very important part of her practice, as it allows her to get a different perspective on her own work. “When collaborating you get to engage with other people and learn from them which in my opinion is the most important thing not just in the design world but everywhere”, she concludes, “In our case it was really fun to work with another designer who has its own mindset and opinion! I was able to see through different eyes and explore new ideas instead of working with just what I see and know.” As they complimented each other really well, Lana and Andrea plunged right into their next collaboration which will be released soon.
As designers, as well as artists, we have a cultural responsibility to respect the cultural context of a project and consider the history, language, customs, habits, traits and behaviors of people. “We cannot stress the importance of this advise but we urge the designers to research the history and get accustomed with the culture before attempting to represent it”, Lana states, “The worst thing that we as designers can witness is when a culture is misrepresented or mimicked incorrectly. So we should stay curious, ask questions, reach out to other designers, and make sure we fully grasp their culture before trying to make it our new tool!”